Page 49: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
Today the sun is shining early. We are riding back out the dirt road we came in on but then taking a different route. I’m hoping this will shave off some time on dirt. This route should bring us back to the Panama border where we first crossed. I expect this will add 40 miles overall but take off 15 miles of dirt road, I hope.
A ‘double jab’ signal from Heidi. She sees a photo-op.
Heidi’s concerned now we will end up back in Panama. I say “I don’t think so’ kind of ‘snotty’ When we get back to the Pan American highway we find ourselves behind the fumigation sprayer and police border post. Just like Heidi said. I start riding past all the parked semi-trucks, then around the fumigation sprayer. The last police post has a stop sign. Heidi’s jabbing and yelling for me to stop. “You Have To Stop” Yes, I didn’t want to stop but I did. Heidi waves at the policeman in the booth, he waves us on. I waste no time taking off. I didn’t want to look, I am done.
We ride back into Costa Rica, slowly climbing into the hills. 25 miles later we pull into the town of Niely. I try to get some cash at the same ATM I got cash at several days before. Two cards, no cash, crap. We take off on the PA highway. We have no real plans, just go as far as we feel. This kind of riding requires more map reading and more awareness of exactly where we are at any given time. But mostly, we need to know how far it is to the next town with a possible hotel. If you’re in no hurry this can be a fun way to ride.
We start getting close to San Isidro, a good size city, around 40K population. The first gas station had a line of 20 cars or more. I didn’t need gas that bad. There were two lanes of heavy traffic in both directions. The traffic almost stops. We think maybe this land slide has something to do with it. But the traffic is stopped way down the road also. What up. We were warned about a ‘bridge out’ but we thought it reopened yesterday.
Near the center of town the traffic stops again. Then it crawls, then stops… Now our forward progress almost stops except for a few cars passing the long line of semi-trucks parked in the road. I had to follow. We get to the front of the parked trucks and see a police barricade. The word is, the bridge is out and there are too many landslides on the alternate mountain roads. No one is going anywhere north of here. We are here for the night whether we like it or not. And so is everybody else. We had to go to three gas stations before we found one that still had gas.
The first hotel we look at is full. This could be bad. I tell Heidi we may end up pitching our tarp next to the truckers tonight. The next hotel with parking had one room open (a handicap room) We luck out again.
San Isidro is a fun town. We are blocks from the city center with all the café’s, restaurants, bars and cool shops. We will stay a couple nights while waiting for the Pan American highway to open back up. This will give us time to ‘check out’ the town and hopefully the rain will end also.
Tomorrow we have plans to visit three AdvRider couples in San Jose Costa Rica. The guys rode down from Kansas and the woman flew. Anyway we are just stopping by for Coffee and a little chat. Later they are riding to a beach on the Pacific.
The skies are sunny today. We get on the road as early as we ever have. We are excited about putting on some miles today and getting ready for Nicaragua. All the Semi trucks parked on the road are gone. At the end of town we see orange barricades blocking our side of the road. I ride around them and keep going. A mile or two later Heidi’s asks “What are we doing?” Of course I make the brilliant statement “I don’t know” I keep riding. I’m thinking we will find the end eventually. I hope someone there can tell us the detour route around the problem. We pass through a few cleared landslides. Now up ahead we see some heavy earth movers and dump trucks. I’m thinking this must be the end. I slow down getting ready to cross the next landslide area. Before I know it we are sliding sideways in soupy red clay. How to describe a wipeout? ‘Slow motion’ ‘I thought I was going to pull it out’ ‘we are down’ We hear the sound of aluminum panniers scraping on pavement.
Heidi rode the bike all the way down holding onto me, just like she is supposed to do. I yell out “Try to get off!” She hops off and stands back. I don’t want this to be happening. I’m thinking maybe if I pick the bike up real fast it didn’t happen. (duh…) I yell to Heidi “Help me with the Bike. one, two,THREE” ….”My Back” It didn’t work. We were standing in 3 inches of slippery mud and I wasn’t lifting correctly. Now I yelling out “Take a picture! My back! Take a picture!” “We have to get a photo” Heidi finally says “Let’s just settle down. You need to calm down Tom” Of course she was right. The bike is fully packed and we are standing in deep slippery wet clay. I felt my back tweak but I have to get the bike up, gasoline is pouring down the side of the tank. I look around, I look at the bike. I remember a technique taught at the 04’ copper canyon HU event, how to raise a bike. I get into position, Heidi is ready to help. “One, two, three”. The bike seemed to rise effortlessly. Heidi says “I’m walking!” I say “Good, please do” I move the bike forward out of the mud and park.
Everything looks OK on the bike. I get my head back on straight, I think. I ask for directions from a guy on the road crew. He tells us ‘the detour route’. He talks of several washed out roads and says we need to hug the coast all the way to Caldera. He’s pointing on our map. Great, we turn it around. I crawl back through the landslide clay with both feet down. Heidi walks. We made it. We are back on the road after just wiping out, 2-up. I told myself I wasn’t going to spill with Heidi on board. I must learn from this.
We ride back to San Isidro. Now we need to turn right and ride to Dominical on the Pacific coast. In Dominical we turn north and ride along the coast to Caldera. Our map shows a thin red line for much of this road. Experience says this could be bad dirt roads with water crossings.
We make it to Dominical. Yup, this is where the pavement ends. We stop to chill and make sure this is the road we need to take.
White faced monkeys are jumping from tree to tree right next to us.
The road is bad. Sometime we found an almost smooth line at the far edge of the road. Many times we rode on the wrong side. We were glad all the water crossings had bridges.
About midway we stop for breakfast.
After breakfast I look over the bike some more and notice we have a failed weld joint on our left pannier bracket. Whoooo….
Riding north we run into an adventure rider from Mexico. He’s on his way to Argentina.
We ride through bumpy dirt roads and a lot of road construction. Only 57 miles in 4.5 hours, ouch.
The last five miles of dirt road went from bad to worse. I couldn’t get it out of first gear for miles. Again, Heidi rode it like a pro, standing up on her foot pegs anticipating the big bumps I couldn’t avoid. She is ‘one’ with the bike and I’m digging that.
When we did finally hit pavement, it felt good. I hammer on the gas while shifting thought the gears. Awww, that feels good. Soon the motorcycle’s suspension starts to bottom-out. No potholes, just big and sudden dips in the road. We’re taking heavy abuse. I had to back off the gas and shift her down. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that we are off the dirt road and we still have the left pannier attached, all is good.
When there’s a bike problem far from home a biker spends little time thinking about anything but resolving the problem. If I can find an aluminum welder in the next town I will have the bracket re-welded. Otherwise, 2 long bolts through two new holes. I’m convinced I can make this bracket stronger than the original.
We make it to the beach village, Jaco. It was easy to find a hotel with good parking. Next I get ready for the operation. There are no mechanics in this town and no welders. I’m on to plan-B, squeeze the bracket back into shape using 2 bolts. I will keep the new bolts in, that will take the load off the compromised weld.
I take a walk in town and find a big hardware store. I buy 2 bolts, 4 nuts, some washers and a drill bit. I talked with the people at the hardware store about my problem. I need 4 holes drilled with this drill bit through some aluminum. They think they can help. Someone will get these holes drilled. I stop in at a little convenience store before retuning to the hotel. There I talk to some dudes just hanging around outside. I tell them that I’m OK and I don’t want ‘anything’ but I do need someone who has a drill. I show them the drill bit and the bolts and explain in my best Spanish what I need to get done. These guys are all over it. I tell them I will be back with the bracket in 30 minutes.
Back at the bike I remove the bracket. I mark where I want the holes drilled. I grab my extension cord, drill bit and bolts and walk off.
My new buddy marches me off to a huge construction site that’s all fenced off. There were people working everywhere, on the building under construction and on the ground. A huge backhoe was moving earth in the center of the site. Activity was everywhere. My buddy talks to a few people at the gate. We receive a negative look. My new friend tries again. Now we are allowed to pass inside. As we walked toward a row of small construction buildings we had to talk our way through two more people. Finally we get directed to a small shack. We open the door and inside the shake two engineers were talking and looking over a large blueprint. One of them pauses to come out to see what we want. My friend does some sweet talking while I’m standing there with the bracket in my hand. I explain as best I could what I needed done. The construction engineer walks me over to another shack where he asks someone for a drill. He didn’t like the drill bit I had so he gets his own. He steps on the bracket and drills two holes where I marked. Next I grab a 2X4 that was lying around and place it under the bracket. He drills two more holes using the first holes as a guide, just like I wanted. We test the bolts in the holes. They are perfect. I cannot believe this just happened. On a huge hotel construction site as large as a city block, I’m in and out in 10 minutes with my modified pannier bracket. I can feel myself glowing inside and almost in shock. I just have to screw everything together know and that’s it.
Back at the hotel I squeezed the bent plate slowly back into shape by gently turning one bolt a little then the other a little, back and forth. It worked better than I hoped. I think I have a winner here.
Better than new……
The Ride Continues…
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